Mount Jerome Cemetery was the first privately owned cemetery in Ireland when it opened in 1836. It is 47 acres (19 hectares) in size and has received over 300,000 interments, writes Harry Warren
Mount Jerome Cemetery opened in 1836 with the sad burial of the infant twins of Matthew Pollock. The near 50-acre Victorian cemetery in Harold’s Cross on the south side of Dublin is a peaceful place.
Inside the gates and walking up the avenue towards the Victorian Chapel the most you will hear is bird song and perhaps the gentle sound of leaves rustling in the breeze. It is a good place for a stroll and to collect your thoughts.
The name of the cemetery comes from an estate established there by the Reverend Stephen Jerome, who in 1639 was vicar of St. Kevin’s Parish. At that time, Harold’s Cross was part of St. Kevin’s Parish. In the latter half of the 17th century, the land passed into the ownership of the Earl of Meath, who in turn leased plots to prominent Dublin families.
A house, Mount Jerome House, was constructed in one of these plots, and leased to John Keogh. In 1834, after an aborted attempt to set up a cemetery in the Phoenix Park, the General Cemetery Company of Dublin bought the Mount Jerome property, “for establishing a general cemetery in the neighbourhood of the city of Dublin.”
Originally Mount Jerome was opened as a non-denominational cemetery. Glasnevin, on the North side of Dublin, was an established Catholic cemetery but mostly Protestants lived around the Harold’s Cross area and with them favouring Mt Jerome, it consequently became a Protestant cemetery for most of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
It wasn’t until the 1920’s and the formation of the Irish Free State that the first Catholic burials became more common.
Walking along its avenues you will see some wonderful echoes of Victorian Dublin and its wealthy and notable citizens. Understandably, with its Victorian monuments and layout it has often been compared to Highgate Cemetery in London and Père Lachaise in Paris and like them it has a very similar atmosphere with exquisite Victorian funerary art including ornate memorials, shrouded urns, tombs, angels, vaults and crypts.
Many notaries rest in Mount Jerome, the artists Jack Butler Yeats and AE Russell, William Wilde, the father of Oscar Wilde and ‘Oculist to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria’, the authors Sheridan Le Fanu ‘the Father of the English Ghost Story’ and one of the best loved writers of her generation, Maeve Binchy, the broadcaster Derek Davis, playwright John Millington Synge, the patriot Thomas Davis and brewer Arthur Guinness the Second along with many members of the Guinness family to name but a few.